A development application that, if approved, would dramatically transform the northeast corner of the intersection of Avenue Road and Lawrence Avenue West has raised questions from several residents’ groups concerned about issues such as traffic and green space.
Earlier this summer, First Capital Holdings submitted an official plan and zoning amendment application, as well as a rental housing demolition application for 284–290 Lawrence Avenue West and 1507–1545 Avenue Road. This application does not include 1549 Avenue Rd., which abuts Pusateri’s and is home to the store Royal Lighting.
The applications are to facilitate the construction of two buildings, with heights of 13 and 10 storeys, featuring 455 residential units and 4,680 square metres of retail and commercial space.
A communication sent to North York Community Council on Sept. 8, 2020, jointly signed by four residents’ associations, noted concerns with the application with regard to building heights and no on-site public parkland as well as driveway and traffic issues.
The groups are Bedford Park Residents Organization, South Armour Heights Residents’ Association, Lytton Park Residents’ Organization and Upper Avenue Community Association.
A written statement from South Armour Heights Residents’ Association (SAHRA) said that although the group is not opposed to the redevelopment of the site, they want to ensure the best outcome for the community.
The statement said that the groups agree on the key issues outlined in the letter and continue to be in contact with the City of Toronto Planning and councillor Mike Colle’s office and will be expressing the concerns to First Capital.
“We strongly agree with the City that the site can and must accommodate a city park. Our neighbourhood is park deficient and this is one of the only opportunities to build a large park that will benefit all four residents’ groups and the wider community.”
“Given the size of the site, the Developer is required to convey 15 per cent or 1,470 square metres to public parkland.
“The Developer’s proposal does not include any public parkland. First Capital’s proposal will need to be revised to address this issue,” SAHRA’s statement says.
The statement also says current planning policies permit mid-rise buildings and that SAHRA believes the height of the proposed buildings represent an overdevelopment of the site.
“The upper levels of the buildings facing both Avenue Road and Lawrence should be terraced back from the street to conform with existing planning policies,” it reads.
Ted Butler, vice-president of Bedford Park Residents Organization said the group has concerns about the development’s impact on traffic not only on Lawrence Avenue and Avenue Road, but near the development’s entry points.
He said he would also like to see the completion of the Douglas Greenbelt, a path that currently runs from Douglas Avenue to the back of 250 Lawrence Ave. W.
“There’s a connectivity of the path that goes through the neighbourhood. If you look it up, it’s in the city parks plan, but it really doesn’t finish to Lawrence like it should,” said Butler, who said the issue wasn’t properly addressed during the development process of 250 Lawrence Ave. W.
“Finishing this Douglas Greenbelt cross-ravine path is critical to the neighbourhood. We feel this is a wrong that needs to be corrected,” he said.
Councillor Mike Colle said the corner is significant, as it is a gateway to the area, and this development will set a precedent as two other corners at the intersection could also be up for development soon.
“It’s quite a significant-sized property that backs on to the Douglas Ravine and also it’s part of future efforts to make Avenue Road more of a people street — more than a highway bypass extension — so we have to get this right,” said Colle.
“I’d love to see a setback on the corner where we can get a public plaza or public green space, where people can sit, have a coffee, read a book, just spend some time outside, so coming up Avenue Road you don’t just see another building. I’d like to see sort of a setback on that corner that not only the residents can use, but the whole community can avail themselves of,” he said.
Colle said the development is known around his office as the Pusateri Development, named after the fine-foods grocer whose current location would be lost to the development. Colle said he would love to see Pusateri’s remain and be one of the anchor stores in the new development.
“Pusateri’s has a very important place in food distribution and food retailing in Toronto and really set the standard for quality food long before anyone else understood or appreciated the fact that people wanted top-quality products, and they were willing to pay a bit more and knew they were getting excellent top quality,” said Colle.
“I know of the family, the sacrifice they made. They made a very viable business that’s employed a lot of people and provided a product there was obviously a demand for. They really were ahead of the curve. I’d love to see them remain there as one of the anchor stores.”
The amendments and demolition application were considered by North York Community Council on Sept. 10 and were due to be considered by Toronto City Council on Sept. 30.
Toronto’s city planning division has recommended staff schedule a community consultation meeting with the ward councillor.